Reynolds gets a VIP tour of Prestage site
By CHAD THOMPSON
EAGLE GROVE – Gov. Kim Reynolds believes the addition of a $250 million pork plant south of Eagle Grove, which will process 10,000 hogs a day, is needed to help revitalize the area.
“This can bring more companies here and help the area continue to evolve,” Reynolds said last week on the site where Prestage Foods of Iowa is building its nearly 700,000-square-foot facility. “It’s so needed.”
She added, “I am really looking forward to the progress.”
Reynolds, along with acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, took a tour of the site where more than 1,000 workers will be directly employed when the plant opens its doors November 2018.
Bryce Davis, Wright County economic development director, who was largely responsible for the advancement of the Prestage project, announced a new development to be placed near the Prestage site.
“We are working on an industrial park out by the site,” he said.
He said there are tentative negotiation agreements with current landowners to put construction in and sell the lots.
Davis said a truck stop could be added.
“What we are doing is capitalizing on ancillary businesses that will come in,” he said. “Cold storage, dry goods distribution, as well as a truck stop, trucker’s lounge with truck traffic increasing.”
Davis said plans to develop the industrial park will be finalized in the near future with a groundbreaking set for spring 2018.
He did not elaborate further.
Jere Null, chief operating officer of Prestage Foods of Iowa, said the location of the plant was a crucial factor in the decision to locate in Wright County.
“Our site is on 160 acres,” he said. “Daybreak (Foods, Inc.) is about a mile between the back of our building and the first buildings that they have.”
“The complexes are pretty close and this is sort of a major intersection,” Null added. “Back to Fort Dodge, down to Webster City and then to Eagle Grove. So it’s a really logical place where all of these communities geographically meet.”
Davis said the location allows for the anticipated increase in human population to spread out throughout the region.
“When we looked at the site, with 1,000 jobs in the first year and 800 in a second shift, that’s a lot for any one community to handle,” he said. “So we put the plant there for a couple of reasons. One, for natural dispersion of population, where every town in the region can see growth because our labor shed analysis says that people will drive 20 miles one way for a job.”
Davis said a natural gas pipeline was a second major factor.
“Another reason was because Northern Natural Gas has a major pipeline that runs from Minneapolis to Texas,” he said. “From a natural gas needs that Prestage will use, it made more sense to just tap that main there and then we wouldn’t have to look at distribution.”
He added, “We decided it would be easier from that standpoint and Daybreak can also hook onto natural gas services instead of using propane, which will overall lower their operating expenditures.”
A new Eagle Grove wastewater plant, estimated at $29 million, is another byproduct of the Prestage plant.
The wastewater facility, which will be used by the city of Eagle Grove and Prestage, is being funded through a State Revolving Loan fund, according to Eagle Grove Mayor Sandy McGrath.
Null said the partnership made sense.
“On the waste treatment it worked out that Eagle Grove’s plant was at least 40 years old and it would have taken a major capital expenditure to meet the new nitrate rules for Eagle Grove,” Null said. “So we partnered up with them. We need new capacity, so we are able to do this at a much better value to Eagle Grove than if they did one on their own.”
Bids have been received for the wastewater project and construction is to begin later this month, McGrath reported.
Jess Toliver, Eagle Grove Community School District superintendent, was also in attendance. He said the announcement of Prestage has positively impacted the school system.
“When I came here nine years ago we were asking if we were going to have a school, and now we are saying are we going to need a new school,” Toliver said.
He hopes training provided through Iowa Central Community College at the North Central Career Academy in Eagle Grove will result in workers for the plant.
Reynolds said she appreciated what Toliver said about the academy.
“This is an opportunity to keep people in the area and bring people back to the area,” she said. “These are great jobs. Quality careers with benefits.”
The average annual full-time wage at Prestage is projected to be $47,000 plus benefits. The lowest paid full-time Prestage employees are expected to earn a minimum of $37,000 annually plus benefits.
Reynolds was impressed with the collaboration of local officials to bring in Prestage.
“I am proud to have them in the state,” she said. “I am really proud of the locals in being proactive – thinking about workforce, thinking about the infrastructure. I am from rural Iowa so I know what this can mean.”
Reynolds also commented on the scope of the Prestage project.
“The size,” she said. “The opportunities that are here. When you land something like this it helps meet other problems in the community too. This is just a great opportunity to continue to grow.”
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